The Translation of English Passives into Arabic: An Empirical Perspective

Mohammed Farghal and Mohammed O. Al-Shorafat
Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan

The study aims to check the intuitions reported in studies on the translation of English passives into Arabic against empirical data that consist of translations of English passive utterances as they naturally occur in an English text. It inquires into the linguistic strategies and resources that translators from English into Arabic fall back on when encountering passive utterances. It is shown that translators employ many strategies with this order of frequency: nominalization, adjectivalization, passivization, activization and pseudo-activization. It is also shown that the claim that Arabic does not tolerate agentive passives is inadequate, since Arabic translators use a variety offormal markers in translating English agentive passives. Thus, the study demonstrates that English passivization is predominantly structure-based, whereas Arabic passivization is predominantly semantics-based.

Table of contents

In its essence, translation is a feat of transferring meaning as manifest functionally in a certain context from one language to another. This transfer involves ipso facto phonetic, lexical, structural, pragmatic and textual decisions (for more details, see Farghal 1992a). Such decisions are meant to bring forth equivalence. Within the context of translating, equivalence is viewed as a dynamic parameter that constitutes a correlative of text type, author and audience. That is, any discussion of equivalence independently of these three variables is doomed because it is these contextual factors that direct the translator's options during the search for natural/appropriate equivalence.

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